Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Montly meta: top ten entries for February 2015

It's time for me to recap the ten most viewed entries of the month that I've already posted at this blog's Facebook page.  As I wrote last month, that's a habit worth resuming.

Unlike the top ten entries for January 2015, which was was a very good month for the back catalog, with seven or eight of the top ten coming from previous months, February saw eight different entries from the current month making appearances in the top ten during the past two days, although only six of them were together at the same time.  Follow over the jump for last month's top ten plus two honorable mentions.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Equal pay for equal work at the Oscars

For this week's belated entertainment entry,* I decided to tie it in with this month's Nablopomo theme about news and especially about women being newsworthy by featuring Patricia Arquette's acceptance speech at the Oscars.  That became newsworthy because of her call for equal pay and equal rights for women.  ABC News reports in Meryl Streep Cheers Patricia Arquette's "Equal Pay" OSCARS Speech .

Oscars 2015: Patricia Arquette says "All Women Deserve Equal Pay" as Meryl Streep Cheers loudly in the audience while sitting next to Jennifer Lopez. The winners for best supporting actor and actress describe their winning moments at this year's 87th Academy Awards.
Yes, pay inequality is a problem even at the top of the pay scale; it's that pervasive.

Arquette's remarks and the reaction to them prompted WXYZ to follow up in Women's equal pay issue at Oscars -- Rep. Christine Greig weighs in.

Representative Greig serves the distrct across the street from me, so I have more than a casual interest in her and the causes she champions. So far, I'm impressed.  However, she's only in her first term in Lansing, so she has much to learn about state government, such as its tendency to act like Michigan is Ignoreland.  I wish her luck; she'll need it.

As for the magnitude of the problem, I turn to John Oliver, who gives his humorous and informative take in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Wage Gap.

John Oliver explores America's wage gap between men and women and proposes a possible solution.
Note: Solution proposed is 100% sarcastic.
Note, all the female presidents are fictional.  Here's to life imitating art in that regard.

*My wife and I were too busy watching our favorite Sunday shows for me to comment on entertainment.  It's happened before.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


From the website:
So what is the NaBloPoMo theme of the month?


Women's lives matter. That is the simple idea behind the #womenslives initative spearheaded by Public Radio International and SheKnows (BlogHer's parent company). News flash: Our lives are newsworthy. And it's time to step up and use our platforms to not only tell our story but to add our voice to the recording of history.

This month we'll be talking about news. The places you get your news, the amount of time you use focusing on the news, and critiquing the news to see what works and doesn't work (Emphasis mine-P-S). Women may be 50% of the world's population, but we're only 24% of the news stories. It's time to change that number.

At the same time, this month in BlogHer University, we'll be running a mini journalism school. The writing prompts will be great practice in turning your blog into not just a day-to-day record of your life, but also, at times, a journalistic endeavour.
This theme should be a piece of cake for me.  After all, this is primarily a news blog, not a personal blog; it even has news in the title and a news label already.  It's enough to actually convince me to use the prompts.  Some of them are even on topics that I have covered here.
Sign up for March's NaBloPoMo and let's make news.
I did.  The theme was also enough to get me to sign up on the first day I could, before any blogs were listed on the blogroll.  That was enough to place me 12th on the list, about as high as I've ever been.

Enough about the theme.  Stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment entry.  There's more going on than the death of Leonard Nimoy.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

May Leonard Nimoy's memory live long and prosper

Yesterday, the news came that The Original Spock, Leonard Nimoy, Has Passed Away.  The Know reports.

Leonard Nimoy, who popularized the character of Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek series, has passed away at the age of 83.
That's a very good obituary, but it doesn't capture why the man and his best known role were so important to all the people who posted about his life and death on social media.  For that, I turn to Ben Casselman of FiveThirtyEight's Rest In Peace, Mr. Spock.
[T]he ideals that Spock embodied — that logic can point the way to morality, that evidence is the basis for truth, that curiosity matters more than dogma — were powerful influences that resonate even as the show’s hackneyed plots and on-the-cheap special effects have come to feel dated...

“Star Trek’s” reputation for progressivism is often overstated. Female officers wore short skirts, Captain Kirk was a walking sexual harassment lawsuit and the one black cast member was essentially a glorified telephone operator. Even the show’s famed interracial kiss only happened when both characters were possessed by aliens.

But in its belief in the power of science, Star Trek truly was progressive. Unlike the fundamentally anti-technology “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” was driven by a utopian belief in the power of science and technology to eliminate poverty, end war, cure disease and overcome prejudice. Spock, the Enterprise’s tricorder-toting science officer, was the embodiment of that spirit.
In Nimoy’s portrayal, Spock is dispassionate but not cold; his reliance on logic is driven by his belief in its power to do good.

In his eulogy for Spock at the end of the “Wrath of Khan,” Kirk says of his friend: “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most human.” That’s a message all of us odds-quoting data nerds can get behind.
Here's that eulogy.

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) delivers an emotional eulogy for his friend Spock.
Nimoy has passed, but Spock lives on.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Silly and serious about Net Neutrality

Yesterday, the FCC voted to classify internet service providers as utilities, a big victory for net neutrality.  Meg Turney of The Know gave her refreshingly silly take on the news in Net Neutrality WIN.

Break out the poppers - we're headed in the right direction!
That's the silly.  Follow over the jump for the serious from Vox.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Closure of Northland Mall approved

The signs of collapse and possibly renewal all literally all around me.  Last December, I described how my employer imploded the vacant office tower across the street in Watch this building go boom.  Yesterday, a different kind of collapse happened on the other side of campus, as WXYZ reported Northland Mall in Southfield to close.

This has been a long time coming, but that makes it no less sad.  In the 1990s, Northland Mall was a thriving shopping center.  The department chair took me out to lunch at what was then the Hudson's, now Macy's, in the center of the mall the day she hired me.  During the early 2000s, I mall walked there for exercise and got to see the decline first-hand.  First, the Montgomery Wards closed in 2001 as the company went bankrupt. The location was never filled.  A few years later, J. C. Penny closed its store there.  It was also never replaced.  That meant that two of the center's five anchor spots were vacant for at least a decade.  By this time, the once thriving mall had half of its smaller storefronts vacant as well.   At that point, it was too depressing a location to walk for exercise.  I switched over to Laurel Park Place in Livonia to mall walk.  That was ten years ago.

I've only been back to Northland Mall once this decade, to shop at the Macy's.  That was a few years ago, and the mall was even more vacant, with only the Macy's and the Target remaining as anchors and even fewer small shops than in 2005.  It was depressing.  Macy's apparently thought it was, too, as the chain announced last month that it was closing its Southfield location.  USA Today reported the news with the headline Macy's closing may kill one of first suburban malls.  That's exactly what ended up happening.

Northland Mall closing is also part of a bigger picture.  CNN Money's story One of America's oldest malls is closing not only reports on the news and includes photos of the interior of the mall, but also has a video about abandoned malls and links to other stories about the closing of malls all over the country.  Business Insider paints an even grimmer portrait, declaring America's Shopping Malls Are Dying A Slow, Ugly Death.  That was a year ago.  Based on what happened to Northland Mall, it looks like they're right.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Obama vetoes Keystone XL

I've been pessimistic about prospects for halting the Keystone XL pipeline for four years.  In 2011, I twice wrote that I thought opposing the project was going to be a waste of time.
I've decided that protesting the concept of the Keystone XL pipeline is futile to the point of being less than useless, as the Canadians would just sell the oil to the Chinese, something the video points out. Therefore, opposing the pipeline as a way of slowing down the exploitation of one of the most carbon dioxide emitting ways of getting oil out of the ground is a waste of time. It's going to be extracted one way or another and opposing the pipeline means that China will benefit from it instead of the U.S. Meanwhile, the global commons will still suffer.
I repeated my opinion last year, calling the pipeline "a dumb idea that's going to hurt Americans, and it's still likely to happen."*  Yesterday, I became more optimistic, as Reuters reported Obama vetoes Keystone XL pipeline, leaving it in limbo.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday, as promised, swiftly vetoed a Republican bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, leaving the long-debated project in limbo for another indefinite period.

The U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, after receiving Obama's veto message, immediately countered by announcing the Republican-led chamber would attempt to override it by March 3.

That is unlikely. Despite their majority, Republicans are four votes short of being able to overturn Obama's veto.
I am pleased to write that this is the most read story on Reuters while I type.  Pro or con, people care about this issue.  It's almost enough to get me to post Professor Farnsworth.

Follow over the jump for the footnote.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Paean to the power of poop, a Squirrel Case entry

In his essay The Mariner's Rule, Greer made an aside about his challenge, "daydreaming about the grandiose project that’s certain to save us."  He provided an opening for me that I couldn't pass up.
That reminds me; I have an preliminary entry for your "Great Squirrel Case Challenge of 2015," power from poop.  We can heat cities and provide them with electricity using the methane from sewage supplemented by the waste heat from all the hot water that goes down the drain with every load of dishes and clothes along with every shower and bath.  Of course this is insufficient to the task, as well as actually being practical on a small scale, but my students found it just disgusting enough that it passes the outlandish test.  Of course, if you think it's not grandiose enough, that will save me writing the actual press release.
The Archdruid was encouraging.
Pinku-sensei, it's grandiose enough, and it's also got the benefit of grossness, which is a plus. Write that press release -- or better still, the sycophantic media article.
Deadlines do a wonderful job of concentrating the mind.  Follow over the jump for the fake article.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Two years on, the stock markets are still setting records

Two years ago, I predicted one of two futures after the first time I wrote about a record S&P close.
As for what's coming next, either Thursday's action was the top of the market or it's off to the races, and people on Wall Street know it.
For the past two years, it's been off to the races.  Last Friday, the Reuters headline read Dow, S&P 500 close at record highs on Greece debt deal.
The Dow and S&P 500 ended at record highs on Friday while the Nasdaq notched an eighth straight day of gains after Greek and euro zone finance ministers reached a deal to extend heavily indebted Greece's financial rescue by four months.

The agreement removes the immediate risk of Greece running out of money next month and possibly being forced out of the single currency area.

The Nasdaq matched an eight-session winning streak from a year ago and inched closer to its 5,132.52 all-time intraday high, reached in March 2000 just before the dot-com bubble burst. The S&P 500 ended slightly higher for the week as well, its third straight week of gains.
All of the S&P 500 sectors ended in positive territory, except energy, which dipped 0.3 percent. Apple, which hit another record closing high, gave the S&P 500 and Nasdaq their biggest boost.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 154.67 points, or 0.86 percent, to 18,140.44, the S&P 500 gained 12.85 points, or 0.61 percent, to 2,110.3 and the Nasdaq Composite added 31.27 points, or 0.63 percent, to 4,955.97.

For the week, the Dow was up 0.7 percent, the S&P 500 was up 0.6 percent and the Nasdaq was up 1.3 percent.
The NASDAQ has less than 200 points until all three stock indexes have recovered for their previous highs.  Too bad I didn't get in the market back in 2009.  Of course, as pessimistic as I have been the past two years, I probably would have gotten out by now.  Speaking of which, I wrote about someone I was sure would get out of the market soon when the S&P 500 first hit a post-recession high two years ago.  Continue over the jump for my follow-up to that prediction.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

ABC and CNN on Oscar predictions and controversies

As I promised last week and yesterday, I'm covering the Oscars for today's entertainment entry.  I begin by getting the predictions and controversies about the major awards out of the way first, starting with ABC News answering its own question, Who Will Win On Oscar Sunday?

Hollywood expert Grae Drake has her picks for Sunday’s Academy Awards.
Of all the films mentioned, only "Birdman," a work of magical realism, qualifies as science fiction or fantasy.  Two others, "The Imitation Game" and "The Theory of Everything," are historical films about scientists.  Both of them figure in CNN's Oscar nominees blur the line between fact and fiction.

As Stephanie Elam reports, some Oscar-nominated films based on true stories have strayed from the facts.
If a viewer wants historical accuracy more than artistic truth, watch documentaries instead of historical dramas.  That's what they're for.

Stay tuned for how the documentaries and other movies for nerds and geeks along with movie music fared in tonight's awards in a follow-up, much like I did last year.